Tackling Negative Word of Mouth

Tackling Negative Word of Mouth

Word of mouth cartoon by Tom Fishburne
Word of mouth cartoon by Tom Fishburne
Cartoon by Tom

How often do you visit a place or a restaurant without reading up feedback on it or asking a friend about it? How did you really happen to hear about a product at first? What exactly did you do when you bought your home? Your answers would invariably be centered around ‘I prefer to consult my friends and relatives’, ‘I got to know from a friend’ to ‘I consulted a colleague who was satisfied with his new home’. People have always trusted their friend’s opinions and especially so in a close knit country like ours. Every day conversations turn out to be so influential that one could be lead to make a vital decision purely on the basis of personal recommendations. So all the expenses on advertising go down the drain, though offering good entertainment value. That explains why some products are being marketed only through networks eg. Amway, Tupperware, Avon,etc.

Now consider such conversations happening online. As bytes move faster due to their online nature and faster still if they contain negative connotations, so a little opinion becomes a bigger one as it gains momentum. They directly or indirectly seep into your sub-conscious and stop you from buying that bike or eating this pizza. And if you are the manufacturer of the bike or own the pizza joint, then you should be worried about such conversations. As per a Synovate study, 78% Indians base their decisions on recommendations alone. And social media enables such recommendations to spread fast in the network as seen by the fall from power of Lalit Modi and Shashi Tharoor with a mere tweet giving away clues to their wrongdoings.

Good recommendations always bring a smile but learning to tackle the bad ones is a true winner. Citing a classic example of Dell computers when an irate influential Dell user blogged about his issues naming it Dell-Hell, the company turned this disaster on its head to become one of the favoured computer manufacturers with an improved customer support system. All it did was to engage him and others who were affected, addressed their issues coupled with customer support to win their loyalty. A desi example would be the Café Coffee Day ruckus labeled with the hashtag #CCDSucks. A quick action on their side helped save them and garnered support from online influencers.

So Indian businesses have no choice but to embrace social media with all its pitfalls and benefits. Here’s a little five-point agenda about what to do in a negative word-of-mouth crisis:

  • Create Listening posts – You need to monitor all that is being said about you in real time and work on those that pose a threat to your business.
  • Take Ownership – Get real. Things do go wrong; it’s only human to err. Admit your fault at once, as any time lapse may lead to further grievance.
  • Apologize – A sincere apology can work wonders to calm the irate human psyche. Remember to be sincere though.
  • Inform Plan of Action – Telling about what action you will take, by when along with the email ids of support personnel who will take action fortifies your sincerity
  • Show Gratitude – Sending a big ‘Thank You’ note to all concerned parties invariably earns you brownie points. You shine in their eyes!

So when ‘A Wednesday!’ goes on to rock at the BO purely standing by the power of recommendations, we also have brands like AOL ending up paying huge fines over a YouTube video of their rude customer support representative coupled with losing subscribership!

“While it may be true that the best advertising is word-of-mouth, never lose sight of the fact it also can be the worst advertising”. – Jef I. Richards.

Any more deas for handling negative word-of-mouth? We are all ears…